December 10, 2019

Statistically Speaking: You Can’t Do That – Home Run Tracker Edition

The dearly departed (for the Pittsburgh Pirates, not the afterlife) Stuart Wallace has left a hole here at DSP. And I’m here to attempt to fill it. During the regular season I will address a situation or issue from a statistical point of view. The focus will still be the Nationals, but I plan to head out beyond the Nats from time to time. I may also veer into the fantasy sports world a bit more than Stuart did, but that’s where my knowledge is stronger. And some weeks I may just bring other important research to bear and comment on its potential effects.

Just a reminder that Stuart and I are not the same person. I’m not a neuroscientist. I’ve been to Nevada for about a total of one hour though I’ve probably spent more time in Las Vegas with Charlie Sheen than Stuart has anywhere in the world. I haven’t ever moonlighted though I have seen several episodes of Moonlighting. The one thing we do have in common is we are both former pitchers though my highlight is hitting the same left hander batter four times in the same game.

Summary

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Statistically Speaking: The Nats Home Run Derby

Taking our cue from Major League Baseball, we’re going take a breather this week and throttle back with the statistically complex discussions and celebrate one of the (somewhat) simpler aspects of the game, or at least one of the more pure and visceral components of baseball—the home run. While we won’t be looking back on the 82 dingers the Nationals have hit so far in 2014 in a manner totally devoid of analysis, we will take a more lighthearted approach to the numbers and focus more on the result more so than the process or the ramifications of the play, for a change. So, without further ado…long balls!

A quick perusal of FanGraphs will tell you that these 82 homers the Nats have hit thus far ranks 14th in MLB and sixth in the National League, well behind the 112 hit by the Colorado Rockies. Seventeen Nats have hit one, with Ian Desmond leading the team with 16 long flys.

Taking those 82 homers, let’s now look at what pitch and pitch location in the strike zone was ‘preferred’ by each Nat with a homer:

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 9.41.08 PMNot a huge surprise, but the hitters like to drive fastballs—here, I’ve collapsed fourseamers, twoseamers, cutters, and sinkers into the ‘FA’ variable—with Adam LaRoche (AL) changing things up and walloping the occasional slider and Ian Desmond (ID) showing himself to be an equal opportunity hitter, with five changeups and three sliders complementing the eight fastball he’s hit out. Here’s how the team level results parse out for pitch type:

 

Pitch n %
CH 8 9.76
CU 3 3.66
FA 56 68.29
FS 2 2.44
SL 13 15.85

 

How about counts—is there a particular point in the at bat that each player has enjoyed more homers in?

HR by countAnthony Rendon likes to jump on the first pitch, while LaRoche has seen a lot of success in 2-2 counts; Desmond and Jayson Werth (JW) show a fairly even spread across all pitch counts, with Werth showing the interesting quirk of doing quite a bit of damage behind in the count (0-1 and 0-2, in particular). Here’s the team breakdown of homers by count:

Count n %
0-0 10 12.20
0-1 12 14.63
0-2 4 4.88
1-0 6 7.32
1-1 8 9.76
1-2 6 7.32
2-0 8 9.76
2-1 6 7.32
2-2 13 15.85
3-0 1 1.22
3-1 3 3.66
3-2 5 6.10

Of note in the above table is the lack of homers in the ultimate hitter’s count—3-0—with the fewest number of Nats homers (just one!) coming on the count you’re most likely to see the most common pitch type hit out for a homer, a fastball.

Homers are great and the further hit, the better; with that in mind, let’s look at home run distances by player:

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.22.40 AMLaRoche concomitantly leads the pack and brings up the rear in homer distances, owning the shortest and longest dingers of 2014. A list of the average homer distances by player is displayed below:

Player n Avg., ft.
Zimmerman 4 378.47
Frandsen 1 377.46
Ramos 3 370.81
Desmond 16 368.68
Werth 12 365.78
LaRoche 12 365.73
Rendon 13 364.68
Span 1 357.90
Moore 3 357.70
Harper 2 354.94
Lobaton 2 352.23
Gonzalez 1 351.88
McLouth 1 347.12
Espinosa 6 346.93
Leon 1 343.44
Walters 3 329.64
Hairston 1 319.51

Not surprisingly, Ryan Zimmerman, while lacking in sheer numbers, leads the pack in average homer distance, showing that when healthy and locked in with his swing, still packs a potent punch.

Let’s get fancy. Let’s now look at home run distances across pitch types:

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 11.07.15 PMThe colored lines in the graph above are the average distances (in feet) for a given pitch type; sliders lead the way in distance hit:

Pitch Avg., ft.
CH 362.38
CU 357.30
FA 361.12
FS 365.16
SL 367.34

While the graph’s x-axis (game date) is a bit tough to see, the above graph also shows us that right around mid-May was when the balls started going a tad further, perhaps due to the weather warming up.

…and last, but not least, a table full of player-specific gory homer details, including average pitch velocities, for those so inclined:

Player Pitch n Avg. Speed (MPH) Avg. Distance (ft.)
Desmond CH 5 82.82 356.95
Desmond FA 8 90.94 374.02
Desmond SL 3 85.40 373.98
Espinosa FA 5 92.58 351.16
Espinosa SL 1 77.30 325.76
Frandsen FA 1 90.40 377.46
Gonzalez FA 1 89.80 351.88
Hairston FA 1 87.60 319.51
Harper FA 2 92.10 354.94
LaRoche CH 1 82.40 374.50
LaRoche FA 6 90.97 352.54
LaRoche FS 1 86.80 366.19
LaRoche SL 4 84.05 383.20
Leon FA 1 87.20 343.44
Lobaton FA 2 91.25 352.23
McLouth FA 1 93.80 347.12
Moore CH 1 78.70 404.78
Moore FA 2 88.95 334.16
Ramos FA 3 93.87 370.81
Rendon CH 1 82.20 335.02
Rendon CU 1 74.40 362.43
Rendon FA 10 91.55 366.98
Rendon SL 1 83.40 373.56
Span FA 1 85.70 357.90
Walters FA 2 92.15 332.50
Walters SL 1 87.00 323.93
Werth CU 2 77.95 354.73
Werth FA 7 93.17 370.56
Werth FS 1 83.40 364.12
Werth SL 2 83.25 360.93
Zimmerman FA 3 90.77 379.42
Zimmerman SL 1 88.90 375.63

No matter how you slice or parse it, the home run remains one of the more exciting plays in the game. With our version of the Home Run Derby, Nats fans now have a better idea of when the dinger is coming and how far it’s going. And to at least my surprise, it isn’t on a 3-0 fastball.

***

Data courtesy of Baseball Savant, unless otherwise noted.
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Stuart Wallace is a Contributor to District Sports Page. A neuroscientist by day, the Nevada native also moonlights as an Associate Managing Editor for Beyond the Box Score, stats intern at Baseball Prospectus, and a contributor at Camden Depot. A former pitcher, his brief career is sadly highlighted by giving up a lot of home runs to former National Johnny Estrada. You can follow him on Twitter @TClippardsSpecs.

Washington Nationals Game 133 Review: Gio, homers pace 9-0 win over Marlins to complete sweep

They still have quite a bit of work to do, but it’s starting to look like the Washington Nationals might actually make a run at the final wild card spot.

In defeating the Miami Marlins 9-0, sweeping the bottom feeders of the N.L. East, the Nats have now won eight of their last nine games and 14 of their last 19 to raise their record to three games over .500 and cut their deficit in the wild card race behind idle Cincinnati to 6 1/2 games with one game still in hand over the Reds.

Scoring nine runs, including three home runs, might make it easy to overlook the masterful work starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez put in. The lefty went seven scoreless, allowing just three hits and three walks, striking out eight along the way. The first couple of innings were his toughest, needing 43 pitches to record six outs, while allowing all three walks and two hits. But Gonzalez (W, 8-6, 3.56) was resilient, gutting out the first couple frames to cruise through the next five without incident.

The Nats offense broke out in the fourth inning against Marlins starter Tom Koehler (L, 3-9, 4.72). Ryan Zimmerman (3-for-3, two runs) drew a lead-off walk before Bryce Harper’s 19th home run of the season, which came on a first-pitch changeup.

They broke things open in the sixth. Zimmerman led off with a single and went to second on Harper’s walk. Jayson Werth then continued his assault on N.L. pitchers, crushing his 21st home run of the season to make it 5-0. The Nats tacked on another later in the inning. Ian Desmond singled and Adam LaRoche walked. After Wilson Ramos flew out to deep right, Anthony Rendon came through with a ground ball through the left side to score Desmond easily.

Desmond capped the scoring in the bottom of the seventh, smacking his 20th home run of the year on a 1-2 changeup, a three-run shot that sealed the deal.

Tanner Roark relieved Gonzalez in the eighth and the rookie gave another strong outing, retiring six of the seven batters he faced, allowing one hit and throwing 12 of this 13 pitches for strikes.

THE GOOD: POWER! When your 2-5 hitters combine to go 10-for-14 with three home runs you’ve got a pretty good chance to win that game. Also, props to Gio for figuring out what troubled him in the first two innings and dominate the rest of the game.

Also: Denard Span singled to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. In the Nats’ last 19 games, in which they’ve won 14, Span has hit .333/.390/.467. Coincidence? I think not.

THE BAD: Wilson Ramos went o-for-4.

THE UGLY: Adam LaRoche. 0-for-3 with a walk, lowers his slash to .237/.336/.476. Just kind of a lost year for a guy who had his career year just last season.

THE STATS: 12 hits, 4 BBs, 2 Ks. 4-for-9 with RISP, 3 LOB. No errors, no DPs.

NEXT GAME: Friday at 7:05 pm against the New York Mets. Jordan Zimmermann (15-7, 3.32) hosts Dillin Gee (9-9, 3.69).

Washington Nationals Game 91 Review: Nats’ four solo shots do in Lee, Phils

The Washington Nationals have struggled this season against left-handed pitching, but Wednesday in Philadelphia, they reached Phillies starter Cliff Lee for four solo home runs en route to a 5-1, snapping a two-game skid in the City of Brotherly Love.

Coupled with the Atlanta Braves 6-2 loss earlier in the day to the Florida Marlins, the Nats (47-44) cut the lead in the N.L. East back to five games.

The home run production made a winner of Gio Gonzalez, who runs his record to 7-3 with a 3.03 ERA for the season. Over his last 13 starts, Gonzalez has an ERA of 2.18 and batting average against under .200.

Gonzalez and Lee traded zeroes until the top of the fifth inning. Anthony Rendon led the off the inning and got behind 0-2 after a couple of called strikes and a foul ball. Lee tried to run another two-seam fastball in on Rendon but the rookie infielder got his hands out quick enough to yank it into the first row of bleachers in left field, hitting an unsuspecting fan in the head with the line drive homer, his fourth of the season.

The next batter, Wilson Ramos, clobbered a Lee two-seamer to the opposite field (4) to give the Nats a 2-0 lead.

The Nats went back-to-back again against Lee in the sixth. Ryan Zimmerman smacked his 11th homer of the season, drilling an 0-2 fastball over the center field fence. Jayson Werth followed with his 10th of the campaign on the first pitch of the at bat, an 87-MPH cutter that got too much of the plate.

Gonzalez cruised until the seventh inning, when after two outs he surrendered Darin Ruf’s first homer of the season. Gio then gave up two base hits before getting Ben Revere to fly out to end the frame with no more damage. For the night, Gonzalez allowed just the one run on six hits and two walks, striking out five.

Washington added an insurance run in the ninth inning. Rendon doubled off reliever Justin De Fratus and scored when Denard Span reached on a throwing error by pitcher Jake Diekman, who had replaced De Fratus two batters earlier.

Tyler Clippard threw an uneventful eighth inning and Rafael Soriano a perfect ninth inning to secure the victory.

THE GOOD: The Nats finally broke the cycle of near-perfect starts by lefties against them. Desmond, Werth, Rendon and Ramos — all right-handed batters — all had two hits.

THE BAD: Despite his home run, Zimmerman went 1-for-5 with four strikeouts and four LOB.

THE UGLY: The Nats lefties, as they have been all season, were horrible against the lefty Lee. Span, Harper and LaRoche combined to go 1-for-14 with 11 men stranded individually.

THE STATS: 10 hits, 2 BBs, 9 Ks. 0-for-9 with RISP, 8 LOB. E: Desmond (11, catch); two DPs.

NEXT GAME: Thursday at 7:05 pm ET against the Phillies at CBP. Jordan Zimmermann (12-3, 2.57) faces Kyle Kendrick (7-6, 3.90).

Washington Nationals Game 136 Review: Gio sparkles, offense shines in 9-1 win over Cubs

NATS HIT SIX HOMERS FOR SECOND STRAIGHT NIGHT

It’s not supposed to be this easy.

For the second straight night, the Washington Nationals took batting practice during the game, tying the team record for home runs in a home game set just 24 hours earlier, en route to a 9-1 win over the Chicago Cubs, before a lively crowd of 21,244 at Nationals Park.

The Nats (84-52) maintained their 7 1/2 game lead over the Atlanta Braves. The Braves beat the Colorado Rockies 1-0 behind Mike Minor’s exceptional start.

The offense made a winner of Gio Gonzalez, who had a no-hitter through five innings. He ended up going seven innings, allowing just three hits, walking none and striking out nine along thee way. He carved up the young Cubs hitters in a manner that almost wasn’t fair. Gonzalez (W, 18-7, 2.98) didn’t allow multiple runners in an inning until two outs in the seventh, when Starlin Castro singled, followed by a Wellington Castillo double.

After a visit by pitching coach Steve McCatty, Gonzalez got Josh Vitters reaching for a curveball to end the inning and his evening.

Gonzalez’ 18th win of the season keeps pace with R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets — who beat the Cardinals Wednesday night — atop the N.L.’s pitching wins leaderboard.

But again, the Nats offense was the big story. The Nats got home runs from Roger Bernadina (4), Adam LaRoche (28), Ian Desmond (21), Danny Espinosa (16) and two from 19-year-old Bryce Harper, who passed Ken Griffey, Jr. on the list of single season home runs by a teenager with his 16th and 17th bombs. Only Tony Conigliaro (24) and Mel Ott (19) are higher on the list.

Washington hit back-to-back homers on back-to-back pitches twice in the game.

The Nats didn’t quite match their team total of 19 base hits from Wednesday, but they did pound out 13 hits to go along with eight walks by Cubs pitchers. Four Nats had multi-hit games.

THE TAKEAWAY: What to say after destroying the Cubs pitching for the second straight night. You almost have to grade these performances on a curve. Nats fans will take it though, after all the abuse they’ve had to withstand in the last few years. Of course, Cubs fans have almost 100 years of experience dealing with nights like last night.

THE GOOD: Gio. He didn’t really give up a hard-hit ball all night. This collection of rookies, journeymen and misfits the Cubs are trotting out there right now didn’t stand a chance.

THE BAD: Um, Gio didn’t get a hit? He was the only Nats’ starter that didn’t.

THE UGLY: Seriously, Cubs. Three of the five pitchers they threw out there last night had ERAs over 6.00. It’s like they’ve already given up.

THE STATS: 13 hits, 8 BBs, 7 Ks. 1-for-10 with RISP, 11 LOB, 1 GIDP. E: Desmond (14), no DPs.

NEXT GAME: Thursday at 7:05 against the Cubs. Jordan Zimmermann (9-8, 3.01) hosts Justin Germano (2-5, 6.30).

Washington Nationals Game 135 Review: Nats pound six homers in 11-5 rout of Cubs

It was in the not-so-distant past when the Washington Nationals trotted out non-prospect rookie after rookie in meaningless September games, watching their opponents abuse their unprepared pitchers one after the other. Tuesday night, it was the Nats’ turn.

The first-place Nats scored in every inning but two against seven different rookie pitchers for the Chicago Cubs en route to an 11-5 victory before a meager crowd of just 17,648 at Nats Park.

The win, coupled with a loss by the Atlanta Braves, stretches the Nats (83-52) lead in the N.L. East to 7 1/2 games.

Edwin Jackson earned the win, despite running out of gas abruptly in the sixth inning. The right-hander had allowed just one run through five innings, but gave up a three-spot before being lifted with two outs in the sixth. The Nats lead was so large by that point though that Jackson easily qualified for the win, his ninth of the season. In total he allowed four earned runs on seven hits and one walk, striking out eight.

The Nats jumped all over Cubs starter Chris Rusin, making his second MLB appearance, right off the bat. Jayson Werth singled to lead off the bottom of the first and Ian Desmond launched his 20th homer of the season into the right center bleachers just three pitches later. Rusin got out of the rest of the inning escaping further damage, but the Nats picked up where they left off in the second.

Jesus Flores led off with his fifth homer of the year, sending one into the seats on the Red Porch. Jackson followed with a line drive single over the shortstop’s head. Werth lashed a double into the left field corner and Desmond scored them both with a double of his own to left center that fell just a few feet from being his second homer of the game.

The Cubs got a run in the fourth on Starlin Castro’s RBIs single, but the onslaught continued for the Nats in the bottom half against Rafael Dolis, the Cubs’ fourth pitcher in as many innings. With two outs, Adam LaRoche sent one into the Cubs bullpen for his 26th homer of the season, and third in three days. Espinosa singled, then Tyler Moore launched a moonshot that fell 15 rows back in the left field stands to make it 8-1.

Ryan Zimmerman was the last Nats starter to record a base hit. That came in the sixth in the form of his 18th home run of the season. The Nats tacked on their tenth run in the seventh. Bryce Harper, who came in for defense the previous inning, doubled, took third on a wild pitch, and scored on Werth’s fourth base hit of the night.

LaRoche had one more swing in him as well, taking one to deep right field in eighth inning for his second home run of the night and his 27th of the season, capping the Nats scoring for the evening.

The six home runs tied the record for the most hit by the Nats in team history since the relocation in 2005 (vs. the Orioles, May 20, 2011) and was the most a Washington-based team has ever hit at home in history.

THE TAKEAWAY: Everyone got in on the act last night. Every Nats position player that batted got a hit — even Jackson went 2-for-3. It was an impressive display against a bunch of pitchers that might not be in Major League uniforms for very long. LaRoche has hit four homers in four days. Werth is hitting .346/.419/.490 since returning from his broken wrist, mostly from the leadoff spot. Desmond matched a career high for single-game RBIs — in the second inning. Other than a couple tense moments by Tom Gorzelanny in the seventh inning, this one was a laugher.

THE GOOD: LOTS to go around. Werth was 4-for-5. Desmond was 2-for-4 with four RBIs. LaRoche was 4-for-4 with two solo homers. Espinosa was 2-for-4. Moore’s homer was a moonshot and Flores’ was a laser. Just good stuff all around.

THE BAD: Ryan Mattheus gave up a solo home run to Alfonso Soriano in the eighth inning.

THE UGLY: Tom Gorzelanny. He walked the bases loaded with the score at 9-4 to bring up Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs best hitter. It was a tense at bat, with Gorzy finally striking out the rookie, but it was enough to get the heart rate up a bit.

THE STATS: 19 hits, 2 BBs, 8 Ks. 3-for-11 with RISP, 9 LOB, no GIDPs. No errors, 1 DP.

NEXT GAME: Wednesday at 7:05 against the Cubs. Gio Gonzalez (17-7, 3.10) hosts Chris Volstad (2-9, 6.06). Also, it’s Dollar Dog Night, if you’re in to that sort of thing.

NATS NOTES: Christian Garcia made his Major League debut in the sixth inning, getting a pop up to end the inning after Jackson allowed the three runs in the frame. Garcia, 27, was a 2004 draft pick of the New York Yankees and has had two Tommy John surgeries on his pitching elbow.

BATTING SONGS: We put together a list of this season’s music. Check it out and help us keep it updated. Thanks.

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